Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Letter from a parent to DBC and a response

Here is a letter from a parent with a son who has bilateral cochlear implants. Since there are some misunderstandings that need to be clarified, DBC responded a letter to her. We decided to share it with you hoping it will help gain better understanding about the intentions of DBC's goal. Note, this parent included AG Bell information in the end of her letter.


Hi,

Came across your website and I have to comment. Your website makes it sound like parents are being forced to NOT sign to their deaf children. I believe it is not a competition, but a choice for parents to make. We signed to our son, then he received 2 cochlear implants, and now signing is minimal as he is oral. Our goal was not to make people think he not deaf, because with his 2 large CI's on his head it's hard to NOT notice! We are not ashamed that he is deaf! We just chose to not sign as his primary mode of communication. Statements like this on your website: "AG, Volta Bureau and other organizations against ASL and all forms of hand gestures lost the war since Time began." are sad as it is not a fight. I believe it is a choice. Parents should be given all of their choices - ASL, TC, and oral/AV when their child is diagnosed with a hearing loss. We are not trying to make our children "seem" normal - they ARE normal. They're unique - just like everyone else in the world! We are all wonderfully made by a Creator who loves us! I pray that you discover that for yourself. God loves you!
Blessings to you!

Thank you for your time,

Laura xxxxxxx

Hearing loss affects 12,000 newborns in the US each year.
That's 33 babies a day - making hearing loss the most common birth defect.
~But, did you know that most children born with a hearing loss can learn to listen and talk?
Find out how at www.agbell.org or www.agbellnv.com

Hearing loss affects 12,000 newborns in the US each year.
That's 33 babies a day - making hearing loss the most common birth defect.
~But, did you know that most children born with a hearing loss can learn to listen and talk?
Find out how at www.agbell.org or www.agbellnv.com



Dear Laura,

Thank you for your feedback. The purpose of the DBC is to promote awareness about the immense benefits for Deaf babies to acquire fluency in sign language and apparently you have done that with your son.

As research stated that the most critical language-learning period occurs between birth and three years old, no time should be wasted to expose Deaf babies (just like hearing babies) to a natural language that is visual, tactile Signed Language.

The DBC recognizes that Deaf babies have been deprived of accessible natural language exposure that they were expected to understand spoken English and to speak at that age especially that they haven't develop auditory skills and speech skills. It is a beautiful nature being Deaf, being a visual being, it makes perfect sense to use ASL, a language that is 100 percent accessible. Using signs with hearing babies have skyrocketed in popularity since research proves multiple benefits so why should Deaf babies be denied of that opportunity?

As for your son using cochlear implants and choosing not to sign as he grows up will probably be your choice. But remember as a parent, it is important not to overlook that the bilingual children tend to retain better cognitive skills and have advanced academic skills. We would strongly encourage any children to acquire two languages when growing up since there are more benefits and advantages for them.

We are not sure how much you understand the history of AG Bell and the organization. This man, AG Bell, practiced eugenics that he attempted to stop the Deaf marrying the Deaf and strictly banned sign language that resulted many oppressed Deaf orals who were deprived of their language that they got abused for attempting to sign. It is amazing that this organization is still allowed to exist and being supported while the symbol represents oppression and abuse. DBC is fighting against the myths and misconceptions created by AVT that actually stated it BANS ASL. DBC doesn't ban spoken English but promotes the bilingual approach with ASL and English.

Also, we are not sure where this statement was found "AG, Volta Bureau and other organizations against ASL and all forms of hand gestures lost the war since Time began." on our website. We know this statement isn't found anywhere in DBC's website content but if its in a comment, it's not our official position. Please check out the DBC's mission statement that states…

"The Deaf Bilingual Coalition promotes the basic human right of all Deaf infants and young children to have access to language and cognitive development through American Sign Language."

It is just simple as that. By the way, TC includes a variety of communication modes (SEE, PSE, SimCom, etc) and ASL. We believe the official description of TC is that it is just a educational philosophy and not a method. Research shows that using TC has failed among Deaf children since they still graduate with a 4th grade level. The reason is obvious since SEE, PSE, SimCom, etc. are not considered a true language. We are doing more harm if we use one of these artificial languages making Deaf children more confused about English and ASL. We strongly believe to keep two languages, ASL and English, separate. We support both ASL and spoken English as long as ASL is used as a primary language as a foundation making it easier to bridge to English.

We pray that you and your son will embrace and thrive in the rich infinite possibilities of mastery in TWO languages and the cultures of both worlds.


Thank you,

DBC





3 comments:

A Parent of Deaf Children said...

This parent surely has a lot of misunderstandings about the concept of having her child not to grow up bilingually.

She said "the website makes it sound like parents are being forced to NOT sign to their deaf children." DBC is not about forcing the babies to sign anyway. I don't see where and how this website is giving out this message. This website demonstrates a lot of positive benefits to have babies to sign and lists plenty of resource links. I get the feeling that this parent is not doing her homework.

I am just too suspicious about this parent since she may be a representative of AG Bell stirring up the pot portraying DBC in a bad light. Or even if she is not, I really hope she will study a lot more about the benefits of bilingual program.

Paula Rosenthal said...

You said, "...it is important not to overlook that the bilingual children tend to retain better cognitive skills and have advanced academic skills." Where is the proof of this statement? Can you direct me to a published, unbiased research study?

You also said, "Deaf babies have been deprived of accessible natural language exposure..." which doesn't make sense. When have babies been deprived? Parents who teach their babies to listen and speak are not depriving them of anything. They are giving them access and understanding of the things they hear and the ability to communicate with anyone they choose. ASL can be taught at any time, spoken language cannot as the window of opportunity is before the child is 5 years old.

I'm not saying that parents should choose one or the other, that is for THEM to decide. Not you, not me, not anyone else.

DBC said...

To A Parent of Deaf Children: Thank you for sharing your perspective. I am glad that you are seeing the direction and purpose of DBC. It is crucial for the parents to be fully informed about the importance of exposing Deaf babies to both languages. Can you share how are your Deaf children are doing with language acquisition?

Paula,

Thank you for your interest and inquiring about the DBC's mission. We are more than happy to share you the research studies.

There are a lot more research studies on bilingual issues found in books (i.e. Mashire) and journals (i.e. Journal of Deaf Studies and Education). Feel free to go to the library and do some readings. As for now, we can start with the provided resource links found in the right column. One of the links that you can click on the link that allows you to download the article on "The Impact of Sign Language ont he Cognitive Development of Deaf Children" written by Cyril Courtin. Also feel free to browse the links.
We would like to share you another link:

http://clerccenter.gallaudet.edu/Products/Sharing-Ideas/afirst/different.html

In those instances where the child's hearing loss is mild enough that both languages can be learned through natural processes of interaction (rather than training), the effects of this early bilingualism are not considered a threat to the child's development of spoken or signed language but rather a positive factor in the child's overall development (Preisler, 1983, 1990). Cummins and Swain (1986) cite numerous studies conducted since the early 1960s reporting that bilingual children function at a significantly higher level than monolingual children on various measures of cognitive abilities. In a similar vein, Daniels (1993) found that hearing children whose first language was Sign Language had English skills superior to their monolingual peers. In other words, exposing a hard of hearing child to Sign Language early is not considered to be risky or detrimental (Ahlström, in press; Preisler, 1983, 1990). Rather, for those hard of hearing children who do have enough access to the spoken signal to acquire speech naturally, the benefits of early bilingualism in the spoken language of the home and the signed language of the Deaf community are considered to be an asset for the child.


As you can see, there are more than several researchers finding the benefits of early bilingualism since it is not conducted by the same researcher.

#2. DBC knows that Deaf babies are not receiving information 100% if they are limited to spoken English. Most of the hearing babies are not able to use correct speech from birth to 24 months and it has been recommended for them to sign where they are able to better express their thoughts. It doesn't make sense to expect Deaf babies to speak and listen without signs especially that they don't have complete hearing. The "window of opportunity" to enable speech and auditory skills is not a natural way for Deaf babies to learn since they are learning "skills" whereas "the window of opportunity" is to acquire an accessible, natural language, ASL, that is, which is much more crucial for language development. Learning ASL later has bad effects as well, although not apparently as bad as speech. The current trend to educate deaf children bilingually—with the use of American Sign Language—has opened new possibilities for developing spoken English.

Please see the link:

http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/languagedeprivation.htm


According to Barbara Haskins, M.D., an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Virginia, language deprivation definitely affects cognitive function. Dr. Haskins is a specialist in treating deaf patients on the deaf ward of Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virgina. There is a window of opportunity to acquire language. If that window is missed, individuals tend to display cognitive defects later in life. Many of her patients were raised by hearing parents in rural areas who only communicated orally or in simple gestures. In an article in Psychiatric News she explained, "My patients only saw talking heads and moving lips, which did not stimulate the left side of the brain that sets up rules for language and thought." (3)

and the link
http://clerccenter.gallaudet.edu/products/perspectives/nov-dec97/asl.html

about how ASL help develop spoken English:

"In fact, the experience of many speech-language therapists in such environments has been that when deaf children develop a solid language base in American Sign Language, teaching spoken communication is easier."

#3 When you said, "I'm not saying that parents should choose one or the other, that is for THEM to decide. Not you, not me, not anyone else."
We already mentioned that in our letter that it is the choice of the parents to decide if her son is to grow up without using natural sign language.
However, we cannot leave the parents in the dark if they are not getting the full picture. As a part of the Deaf Community, it is our responsibility to educate what is the best for the Deaf child. We don't believe in directing the parents to make ONE choice or another since we are offering the whole package by including both languages that are much more beneficial to Deaf babies/children.

Best,

DBC